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Younger Is Better When Getting Cochlear Implants

Post-surgical improvements on hearing tests greater in those under 65, study finds

TUESDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Cochlear implants provide plenty of benefits for older people with hearing problems, but young people are even more likely to do well, new research has found.

Dr. David R. Friedland, and colleagues at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, examined the medical records of 28 patients aged 65 and older who received cochlear implants over a nine-year period. The researchers matched these older patients with 28 younger patients who had similar levels of hearing loss.

The cochlear implants improved hearing in 55 of the 56 patients. But the older patients didn't do quite as well as the younger ones, Friedland and colleagues noted.

"One explanation for these results is that the elderly patient may have a prolonged adaptation phase and reach levels attained by younger users at one-year post-implantation at a later point," the authors noted in their report, which was published in the May issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

"Alternatively, elderly patients may have inherent limitations in processing the high-rate stimulation [of the auditory nerve] used in current cochlear implants. Central cognitive or associative processes may also influence the performance in the population of elderly patients," the researchers wrote.

The findings may help health-care workers provide more realistic expectations to their patients about cochlear surgery, the study authors suggested.

More information

For more about cochlear implants, visit the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Medical Association, May 17, 2010, news release.

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